A recent headline in the "Faith and Values" section of a major newspaper asked this question, and it is a very good one. How do you decide which church is teaching and practicing the truth?
As Pontius Pilate asked long ago, "What is truth?"
Sadly the article, though well written, came to a wrong conclusion and may serve to mislead the readers.
The writer suggested that in one's search for a church that one should check out the various church web sites. So far, so good. Then he recommended that "a person searching for a church should ask their real estate agent, their doctor, their colleagues at work, the kid who bags your groceries, many of whom can tell you about their churches and offer practical tips and even some gossip." What? Is this the way to find a church?
The article goes on to state that, "On what should I base my decision? There are many factors to consider: the preacher, sermon, theology, attitude toward women, gays and people of other cultures and class, facilities, worship style, and schedule, Sunday school, Bible study, men's and women's groups, youth ministries, mission trips, music, friendliness, location, church history, programs, size of the congregation, aggressiveness of fundraising and more."
As I read the article, it was plain to me that the writer was using an approach toward choosing a church that was not biblical. Certainly, some of the things he mentioned are not wrong to have as a part of a church's overall program, but the primary criteria should be preaching and teaching the plain truth of the Scriptures concerning the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Also, does the church teach the observance of the weekly Sabbath and the annual Holy Days as commanded in the Old Testament and as practiced by Jesus Christ, the Apostles, and the early church? Is the congregation a "little flock" or a very large, politically well-connected group in the main stream of society? Are the members of the church truly filled with love, which is outgoing concern for their fellow Christians? Christ said that would be the hallmark of true believers.
The popularity of the preacher, the excellence of the sports program, and the quality of the physical facilities of a church are simply not the basis for determining whether a church is a church that is a continuation of the one that Jesus Christ said He would build.
If you are looking for that church, start by looking for one with the correct name. For example, twelve times in the New Testament, the church is referred to as the Church of God. While Jesus Christ is at the center of all that the true church teaches, the primary message will be about the coming Kingdom of God, not a message that is about the person of Jesus. Down through the ages, the Church of God has been scattered and small. That is true today. However, it does exist, and you have come into contact with it.
The message of the Church of God is the same as it was in the first century. That message is even more exciting and more relevant in these last days, as we see the stage being set for the culmination of all things and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on the earth at Christ's return in Tomorrow's World.
How do you choose a church? It's a very important decision that will directly affect you and your family in the days to come. For more information, order our vital booklets on this subject: God's Church Through the Ages and Where Is God's True Church Today?" The booklets are free of any charge.